Summer Books: 'Bird Box' Sequel, 'Hunger Games' Prequel and More

9:00 AM 5/1/2020

by Lexy Perez

Other titles include a story from Carrie Fisher's former assistant, a timely pandemic thriller and a new love story from the author behind 'Crazy Rich Asians.'

Book Split 4 -April 2020-H 2020
Courtesy of Crown Publishing; Scholastic; Del Rey; Random House

As the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a new normal of staying at home, leaving indie bookstores to shutter their retail operations, that doesn't stop everyone from finding entertainment in newly released books this summer. Though unable to visit the beaches and embark on summer vacations, summer readers can journey into various storytelling worlds whether it be fiction from popular novelists, pandemic-themed works, books with similar plots to TV favorites or memoirs from inspiring authors.

This summer, Josh Malerman revisits Malorie and the mysterious creatures that cannot be seen 10 years after the original Bird Box book was released; Carrie Fisher’s former assistant publishes a fictionalized account of his history with the late star; Crazy Rich Asians' author Kevin Kwan returns with a new, glamorous love story; Suzanne Collins revives the world of Panem in a Hunger Games prequel that tells the tale of someone unexpected; and Curtis Sittenfeld reimagines Hillary Clinton's life for her new book. 

Not all of these selections come out this summer — some are already available, some release in the early fall — but, with strong ties to entertainment and offering escapist pleasures, they are the perfect companions for the warmer months.

Below, The Hollywood Reporter has compiled a list of books that readers must keep on their radar this summer. 

  • 'The End of October'

    The title of The End of October (Knopf) may hint toward the fall season, but the book's summer release comes at a coincidental time. Author Lawrence Wright — a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker — has penned a thriller about a pandemic, which will be released amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The book takes place at an internment camp in Indonesia, where 47 people are pronounced dead after struggling with a hemorrhagic fever. When microbiologist Henry Parsons travels to the country on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, he soon sees things take a dangerous turn as a pandemic begins. The book's timely release makes for a thrilling tale as a doctor hurries to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus. 

  • 'Something She's Not Telling Us'

    From the New York Times best-selling author of A Simple Favor — which was adapted into the 2018 film of the same name directed by Paul Feig and starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick — comes a new domestic thriller, Something She's Not Telling Us (Harper Collins). Bell's new mystery centers on Charlotte, whose life is turned upside down after her brother brings his new girlfriend Ruth to visit. Things take a dark turn as it becomes obvious that no one is being completely honest about who they really are.

  • 'Pelosi'

    In Pelosi (Holt), author Molly Ball, a political correspondent for Time, takes a look at the Speaker of the House's journey into American politics. Ball's book is based on exclusive interviews with Pelosi and details the author's deep background reporting aimed to show how the politician has "has met her moment." "She’s the iconic leader who puts Donald Trump in his place, the woman with the toughness to take on a lawless president and defend American democracy," the publisher writes of Pelosi

  • 'The Water Keeper'

    The author of The Mountain Between Us — adapted into a 2017 feature film adaptation starring Idris Alba and Kate Winslet — returns with a new summer novel, The Water Keeper (Thomas Nelson). The story centers on Murphy Shepherd, a loner who is mourning the loss of his friend and mentor when he finds a new purpose in life. After rescuing a woman named Summer by pulling her out of Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway, Murphy grows more determined to help this new stranger and locate her missing daughter. However, what Murphy doesn't realize is his effort to help Summer may put him in danger and in the middle of modern-day slavery. 

  • 'Big Summer'

    New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Weiner, who has appeared as herself on the TV Land series Younger and whose book In Her Shoes was adapted into a 2002 film starring Cameron Diaz, brings readers a new story perfect for the season, appropriately titled Big Summer (Atria Books). The story centers on Daphne Berg, who is caught off-guard when an old friend reenters her life to ask for a huge favor, despite an argument having ended their friendship six years prior. Unsure whether to truly help her former best friend, Daphne is left to decide whether she wants to assist someone who has a track record of treating her poorly. Weiner's lighthearted, moving tale takes readers on a journey that explores the complexities of female friendship. 

  • 'Officer Clemmons'

    It was just last year when Tom Hanks received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Fred Rogers, the beloved children's TV personality, in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Now another figure from the famed series is having his turn in the spotlight: Officer Clemmons. Clemmons made history as the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children’s TV program at the time. In Officer Clemmons: A Memoir (Catapult), Dr. François S. Clemmons writes about his journey to the popular show, detailing his early years in Alabama and Ohio, studying as a music major at Oberlin College and later having a chance encounter with Rogers that would ultimately change his life. The book gives readers insight into their deep friendship and mentorship that spanned nearly 40 years. 

  • 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'

    The odds continue to be in Suzanne Collins' favor. Over 12 years after she introduced readers to her dystopian Hunger Games franchise, the author is making her return to the world of Panem with a prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Scholastic). Set 64 years before the beginning of her multimillion-selling trilogy, Collins no longer focuses on Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the billion-dollar film franchise), but rather the villain Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the films). Though known to readers as a devious tyrant, a teenage Snow is introduced, with Collins explaining his upbringing and journey to later becoming the manipulative President of Panem. The book is already getting buzz before its release, as Lionsgate has announced that a movie adaptation of the prequel is in the works. 

  • 'Stray: A Memoir'

    It was just last year that the Starz half-hour dramedy Sweetbitter, based on Stephanie Danler's novel of the same name, was canceled after two seasons, but the author is already returning with a new book that offers more insight into her life. In Stray: A Memoir (Penguin Random House), Danler reveals her turbulent upbringing, being raised by a mother disabled by years of alcoholism — she was later handicapped by a tragic brain aneurysm — and a father who abandoned the family when Danler was 3 and later became a meth addict (Danler wrote a 2016 essay about her father's drug addiction for Vogue). After years in New York City, Danler writes about returning to Southern California and working to discover truths about her parents and herself. "Stray is an examination of what we inherit and what we don’t have to, of what we have to face in ourselves to move forward, and what it’s like to let go of one’s parents in order to find peace — and a family — of one’s own," the publisher writes. 

  • 'Rodham'

    Earlier this year, a four-part Hulu docuseries centered on Hillary Clinton, Hillary, made its debut on the streaming service. Now the life of the former first lady is being detailed further by New York Times best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld in her new novel Rodham, but in a reimagined way. In the author's fiction take that weaves actual historical events, Sittenfeld writes what would've happened had Clinton taken a different road than the one that led her to become the first lady alongside her then-president husband Bill Clinton. Throughout the book, which spans the next four decades, Clinton blazes her own trail, which involves crossing paths with Bill, but one that prompts the question: What might have been? 

  • 'Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television's Groundbreaking Sitcoms'

    In the wake of the series finale of ABC's long-running sitcom Modern Family, Marc Freeman is ready to give insider access to the show. In Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television's Groundbreaking Sitcoms (St. Martin Press), the author details behind-the-scenes stories with full participation from cast and crew, including co-creators and executive producers Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan and casting director Jeff Greenberg. Throughout the book, castmembers offer their impressions from their first table read through the series finale, which aired in early April. THR shared an excerpt from the book in January.

  • 'The Lies That Bind'

    The author of Something Borrowed — which was adapted into the 2011 feature film starring Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin — returns this summer with a new novel, The Lies That Bind (Ballantine Books). The story centers on aspiring reporter Cecily and Grant, two strangers who meet at a bar in New York. After their chance encounter, the two soon find themselves entangled in a connection but things take a scary turn when Grant gets lost in the chaos of Sept. 11 and Cecily finds an image of his face on a missing-person poster. She then realizes she is not the only one searching for him and becomes to determined to uncover the truth as to who Grant truly is. 

  • 'Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls'

    Immediately following its release in 1966, Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls became the biggest-selling novel at the time. In fact, Susann's novel has sold more than 31 million copies to date, ranking it as one of the best-selling books in publishing history. The book, which focused on women finding success in New York City and Hollywood, was adapted for the big screen, where it grew to become a beloved cult film. Author Stephen Rebello takes a dive into the creation of the successful film in Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls, The Most Beloved Bad Book and Movie of All Time (Penguin). Through extensive research and interviews, Rebello draws back the curtain on Susann's soapy saga, offering insight into the behind-the-scenes secrets in bringing the novel to the big screen.

  • 'Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America'

    Stacey Abrams made history in becoming the first African American female major-party gubernatorial nominee — even gaining support from stars such as Will Ferrell and Oprah Winfrey — but now she is ready to use her voice once again through her new book Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America (Henry Holt and Co.). In Our Time Is Now, she posits the argument that the right to vote is under attack in America, especially for people of color. In her book, Abrams takes a stance that voter protections are needed in order to help elevate identity politics and encourage engagement in the census. She makes her case using her experience from running as the Democratic nominee in Georgia's 2018 gubernatorial election, as well as utilizing research from national organizations and renowned scholars.

  • 'Sex and Vanity'

    The best-selling author behind the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy — the first book was adapted into a 2018 feature film starring Henry Golding and Constance Wu — returns this summer with his anticipated new book Sex and Vanity (Doubleday). The story follows Lucie Churchill, who is unable to forget George Zao, the handsome stranger whom she met and shared a kiss with while vacationing on the island of Capri. As Lucie manages to forget him now that she’s engaged to a new man, everything changes when she is unexpectedly reunited with George during a weekend trip in the Hamptons. She soon finds herself in a quandary as she lies to loved ones about her and George's past and yearns to explore their chemistry. 

  • 'The Heir Affair'

    The duo behind the best-selling book The Royal We, a story inspired by Prince William and Kate Middleton, bring a timely new royal tale this summer in the wake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping down from their senior royals titles. With The Heir Affair (Grand Central Publishing), the authors debut the second book in the series centered on Rebecca "Bex" Porter and her prince husband Nicholas. After enduring a scandal, the couple face anger from the public and the Queen while finding themselves the focus of tabloids. Though they cut themselves off from friends and family, a crisis forces Bex and Nicholas to return to London, where they must face the wreckage they left behind. 

  • 'Fast Girls'

    With the Summer Olympics unable to withstand the force of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the Tokyo Games to be pushed into 2021, author Elise Hooper tries to bring the Olympics to life this summer in her new book Fast Girls (Harper Collins). Based on true events, the historical fiction novel centers around three women competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, determined to show the world that they have what it takes to make a difference and prove women can do anything. The new book arrives following the news that adaptation rights to Hooper's previous novel, Learning to See, were acquired by This Is Us actress Caitlin Thompson. 

  • 'A Very Punchable Face'

    Saturday Night Live head writer and "Weekend Update" co-anchor Colin Jost is telling all in his new memoir, A Very Punchable Face (Crown Publishing). From growing up on Staten Island to later attending Harvard at the time Facebook was created, Jost "shares how he has navigated the world like a slightly smarter Forrest Gump," the publisher says of the book. In Jost's memoir, readers will be presented with personal anecdotes, as well as behind-the-scenes secrets from SNL (Jost has written memorable sketches and characters featured on the NBC variety sketch series over the past 15 years). The author will also detail his experience as a touring stand-up comedian and hosting the Emmys, and even recount his mother’s experience on the scene of the Twin Towers' collapse on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • 'Malorie'

    It's been six years since author Josh Malerman published his acclaimed novel Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic tale that was adapted in the 2018 Netflix film of the same name starring Sandra Bullock. In his follow-up Malorie, Malerman reintroduces the titular character and her two children, Tom and Olympia, 10 years after finding salvation in a school for the blind. Though still unable to look outside as the mysterious phenomenon continues to exist, Malorie and her children soon must confront the creatures once again after they learn there are more survivors and embark on a journey to find them. 

  • 'The Answer Is… : Reflections on My Life'

    Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek may be battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but that isn't stopping him from telling his story in a new memoir, The Answer Is… : Reflections on My Life (Simon & Schuster). "I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year," the Jeopardy! host writes, according to the publisher. The book will provide personal anecdotes along with Trebek’s insight on a myriad of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality and philanthropy. Having hosted the game show Jeopardy! since 1984, Trebek will also answer popular fan questions. To continue to pay homage to his career, Trebek structures the book like the game show, with each chapter title in the form of a question. The memoir will also include dozens of never-before-seen photos that candidly capture Trebek over the years.

  • 'The Pull of the Stars'

    In 2010, author Emma Donoghue published her best-selling book Room, which centered on a kidnapped mother raising her child in the room in which they are imprisoned. The novel found more success after it was adapted into a film starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, with Larson wining an Academy Award for best actress for her role. Now, Donoghue returns with a new story that arrives at a coincidental time. In The Pull of the Stars (Little Brown & Co.) the author explores Ireland as it endures both war and disease, taking place during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The story follows a nurse working at an understaffed hospital, where expectant mothers must quarantine together after being infected by the new flu. Not a stranger to creating a hopeful story that inspires readers to believe that survival is possible despite any odds, Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars is well-timed given the book is being released during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 


  • 'A Star Is Bored'

    It has been four years since Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60. Now, someone close to her is ready to tell his story working as her assistant — kind of. In A Star Is Bored (Henry Holt and Co.), Fisher’s former assistant Byron Lane pens a fictionalized tale based on his experience with the late star. The story centers on Charlie Besson, who acts as a personal assistant to Kathi Kannon, known as the Queen of Hollywood. Amidst the chaos and glamour of celebrity assistants, Charlie forms a close friendship with Kathi. However, Charlie soon fears that if he stays as her assistant, he’ll never be able to grow and become the star he was always meant to be. 

  • 'He Started It'

    The film rights to Samantha Downing's best-selling novel My Lovely Wife were acquired by Amazon Studios, in partnership with Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films, earlier this year. However, Downing is already set to deliver another new thriller this year with He Started It (Penguin Random House). The novel centers on three siblings who are forced to come together after their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake. Left to decipher his last message, the siblings and their partners embark on a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and secure their inheritance. However, things take a dangerous turn when one of them is secretly a murderer and, as the publisher writes of the book, "money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone." 

  • 'You Had Me at Hola'

    Last year, The CW's telenovela-inspired show Jane the Virgin aired its series finale. Now, the telenovela spirit continues to live on in Alexis Daria's summer rom-com book, You Had Me at Hola (Harper Collins Publishers). It centers on soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez, who is reeling from a messy public breakup and avoiding the tabloids obsessing over it. After telenovela star Ashton Suarez becomes Jasmine’s new co-star, it becomes more difficult for him to keep the secrets he hopes to hold onto as his feelings for Jasmine grow stronger. As the two film a bilingual rom-com, the pair's showmance becomes entertaining both on- and offscreen. Between exploring classic rom-com tropes and themes on representation in the Latinx community, Daria's book makes for that perfect summer romance.